- C++Now 2017: Niko Matsakis “Rust: Hack Without Fear!” – YouTube
- Rust for C++ people (of which I’m not actually one, but it might be interesting anyway).
(tags: rust language programming)
- You Are the Product
- John Lanchester reviews 3 books on Facebook and Google, and comes to the conclusion that Facebook does things because it can, without considering whether it should.
(tags: facebook advertising psychology Internet zuckerberg google)
- The Three Waves of Discworld – An approximation of alertness
- “So I’ve been thinking for a while about the Discworld books, and how they can be divided up into three rough thematic phases; not based around the focal characters, but rather what the story is about.”
(tags: discworld terry-pratchett books fantasy)
- John Norman, the philosophy professor who created the barbaric world of Gor
- io9 interviews John Norman, the famous complementarian and author of the Gor novels.
(tags: bdsm fantasy book scifi gordon-brown john-norman complementarianism)
- Advice God
- Like Advice Dog, but Advice God! I'm snaffling some of these: "UNCONDITIONAL LOVE/WITH CONDITIONS".
(tags: religion atheism funny god humour)
- YouTube – Christopher Hitchens drops the hammer
- "It's considered perfectly normal in this society to approach dying people who are unbelievers and say 'Now are you going to change your mind?'" Well, yes, that's anticipating-as-if there's a Hell, say. But if we're going to apply the norms of discussion fairly, I like Hitchens’ idea of atheists going round religious hospitals. 🙂
(tags: christopher-hitchens death religion hell conversion)
- Hell and linoleum | Andrew Brown | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
- "What would it feel like to believe that anyone really deserved eternal conscious torment? Is it even humanly possible?" I think that Georges Rey's "meta-atheism" is correct on this point: most Christians don't anticipate-as-if there's a Hell, though claiming to believe it and still worshipping a monster is bad enough. berneray's comment is good, read that as well.
(tags: hell christianity religion andrew-brown)
- Random Thoughts on The Roles of Leading and Following « Swungover
- Via CW at Lindy. There seems to be much more debate about this than there is in ballroom, perhaps because ballroom's more conservative anyway, perhaps because it's settled by "you're shorter, therefore you're going backwards so I can see over you".
(tags: dancing lindy leading following swing)
- New Statesman – Making marriage harder
- "the world would be a far happier place if marriage was harder and divorce easier" – an interesting proposal from the New Statesman's legal correspondent.
(tags: marriage funny law)
- At last an IT supplier that tells it like it is – The Tony Collins Blog
- "No platitudes, just straight talking on govt IT from Martin Rice of agile software company Erudine." I've heard tales of middlemen charging government the Earth to take an £100/year hosting account and install WordPress on it. Glad to see someone speaking up.
(tags: government economics politics uk waterfall agile IT)
- Paul Haggis Vs. the Church of Scientology : The New Yorker
- Just in case you were in any doubt that Scientology is a massive con.
(tags: religion scientology cult)
- Clergy told to take on the ‘new atheists’ – Telegraph
- The Archdruid is going to fight the Dawkinsator. This will be epic.
(tags: atheism uk anglicanism anglican cofe rowan-williams new-atheism richard-dawkins)
- What “socalized healthcare” is really like
- Not perfect, but pretty good at treating urgent stuff.
(tags: uk nhs health medicine)
- Terry Jones Adapting Good Omens Into A TV Series Bleeding Cool Comic Book, Movies and TV News and Rumors
- Should be good, if it happens.
(tags: terry-pratchett pratchett neil-gaiman books television fantasy)
- On ableist language
- Why you shouldn't call the Conservative cuts "crazy". I found this very helpful.
(tags: satire identity-politics disability politics)
- Inside the Battle to Define Mental Illness | Magazine
- The controversy surrounding the proposed new edition of the DSM.
(tags: psychology science criticism dsm)
- YouTube – The Lord of the Books of the 55 Arse-Hymens of Stone
- Lord of the Rings audio book mashup. Horribly NSFW on the audio, utterly juvenile, hilarious. Via mefi
(tags: funny mashup lotr tolkein lord-of-the-rings fantasy audio)
- YouTube – BBC Newsnight: UK Homeopathy Update 2011
- Society of Homeopaths gets spanked on Newsnight, with a well deserved opportunity for revenge by Simon Singh.
(tags: homeopathy quackery medicine science simon-singh Newsnight)
- The Last Psychiatrist: Wakefield And The Autism Fraud– The Other Part Of The Story
- Wakefield's a fraud, but that's not the end of the story: why did it take so long to spot it?
(tags: science peer-review journalism autism mmr wakefield vaccine vaccination medicine)
- Why the New Atheists Failed, and How to Defeat All Religious Arguments in One Easy Step
- A neat summary of Luke's problem with Dawkins, and what he thinks is a better argument against theistic explanations. Youtube video with a transcript (hurrah).
(tags: richard-dawkins dawkins atheism religion philosophy explanation)
- Curing the gays « Derren Brown Blog
- Derren Brown (who's gay, and who used to be a Christian): "I have, however, attended these sorts of church sessions and even courses which set about healing the ‘brokenness’ of homosexuality… I read of such things now and shiver."
(tags: derren-brown gay homosexuality christianity religion philippa-stroud sex)
- Top Tory Adviser Ran Prayer Group to “Heal” LGBTS
- Focusses on why the media have ignored the story. Contains a comment from one of the people quoted in the original Observer article, something which the regular media won't print, apparently.
(tags: philippa-stroud conservatives conservative politics sex religion homosexuality demons)
- Erasing David
- Ross Anderson on poor operational security in the NHS, made worse by politics: "Last night’s documentary Erasing David shows how private eyes tracked down a target by making false pretext telephone calls to the NHS. By pretending to be him they found out when he and his wife were due to attend an ante-natal clinic, and ambushed him as he came out."
(tags: privacy security nhs ross-anderson health)
- A Bit of Fry and Laurie – A word, Timothy
- "Berwhale the Avenger, the Weapon of the Chosen One." "He lives far beyond… in Saffron Walden."
(tags: funny fry-and-laurie stephen-fry fantasy parody berwhale)
It’s rare that you’ll see recommendations for fanfiction on this blog, but Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality certainly deserves it. Have fun.
Lev Grossman’s The Magicians is Harry Potter meets Narnia meets Brideshead Revisited meets Douglas Coupland.
The protagonist, Quentin Coldwater, starts off as a maladjusted geek who’s in love with his best friend’s girlfriend. He escapes into the Fillory books, which describe the adventures of a family of English schoolchildren in a magical land filled with talking animals. After his interviewer for a place at Princeton drops dead, he’s invited to join Brakebills, an elite magical college.
Brakebills is Hogwarts, but with more grit. Without the magic, Hogwarts is an English boarding school. The nearest mundane equivalent to Brakebills is a small Oxbridge college. Undergrads drink and screw, as undergrads do; everyone knows everyone’s business; new arrivals end up reeling from the shock of being given work which taxes them and of being surrounded by people as intelligent as them, if not more so. It turns out that magic isn’t about learning the secrets of the universe, or waving a wand and uttering some cod Latin and having everything just work: it’s more like learning Basque while juggling. So far, so very familar.
The Brakebills section is enjoyable: Quentin grows up a bit, acquires some comrades, chooses to face a trial, and overcomes it. But on graduating, he and his friends are lost. Not just in the come down after the party, or the come down after an intense intellectual effort (recall Philip Swallow in Changing Places, who saw the run up to his final exams as the high point of his intellectual career), but because as magicians they’ve become the idle rich, people who can have anything they want, if only they knew what that was. Only Quentin’s much more sensible girlfriend, Alice, seems to be able to cope with the existential problems of being a wizard. The rest of them need a story to be in, and don’t have one.
Many people in that situation end up finding a religion and writing their lives as fan-fiction. The magicians go one better, and find their way into a story by finding their way into
NarniaFillory. Will this finally give their lives some meaning? I won’t spoil the ending by telling you.
Grossman’s borrowings from other works are done knowingly: the Brakebills students are as media-savvy as any teenagers, so of course they make jokes about Quidditch; the Fillory section reads like someone’s report of a dungeon crawl (albeit a particularly well-written one), so the magicians arm themselves with spells they name Magic Missile and Fireball after their D&D counterparts. But Grossman’s not merely mugging for the camera, writing a modern Bored of the Rings. He wants to jar us by combining a modern novel with a children’s fantasy setting, and he succeeds. Watching the magicians stumble through Fillory is like hearing someone swear in a cathedral.
Grossman can write, and supplies us with wit as well as grit. I read the book in one sitting, after which the sound of birds outside the window reminded me that sleep might be a good idea. Abigail Nussbaum (whose review you should read, although be warned it gives away more of the plot than I have) wishes that Grossman had the courage of his convictions. I like the relentlessly grim SF novel as much as anyone, but I find it hard to fault Grossman for giving his protagonist a second chance. I enjoyed it in any case. Recommended.